In episode 486, Megan chats to Janessa Heck about how to manage health issues and diet restrictions while food blogging.

We cover information on selecting a group of trusted taste testers, exploring non-recipe content, adjusting blogging frequency and selecting recipes that align with new dietary recommendations.

Listen on the player below or on iTunes, TuneIn, Stitcher, or your favorite podcast player. Or scroll down to read a full transcript.

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Guest Details

Connect with The Nessy Kitchen
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Bio As an avid cook, baker, and food blog reader, Janessa long dreamed of starting her own food blog and finally took the plunge in December 2020. Janessa focuses on easy, healthier recipes made mostly with whole food ingredients as well as oat flour baking. After a year of plugging away at it as a hobby, she decided she wanted to treat it as a business and started to learn about SEO in January of 2022. The Nessy Kitchen grew from less than 1,000 visitors in February 2022 to over 100,000 monthly visitors 18 months later. Janessa lives in Alberta, Canada and in her free time, you can find her enjoying yoga, reading, or in the Rocky Mountains skiing in the winter and paddleboarding or hiking in the summer.


  • Trusted Taste Testers: During times of reduced appetite or illness, having a group of trusted taste testers can help ensure the quality of recipes even if the blogger cannot taste them personally.
  • Consistency with Adjusted Frequency: Bloggers can maintain consistency by adjusting the posting frequency.
  • Non-Recipe Content: Explore non-recipe content to provide valuable information to the audience without the need for recipe testing and tasting.
  • Update Old Recipes: Revise and update old recipes, leveraging existing content and photos.
  • Publish Previously Tested Recipes: Share recipes that have been previously tested, even if not initially pursued, as a way to maintain consistency and offer unexpected surprises.
  • Consider Dietary Changes: Explore recipes aligned with any dietary changes the blogger may be experiencing.
  • Outsourcing: If feasible, consider outsourcing tasks like photography during times of reduced well-being to lighten the workload and maintain blog activity.
  • Avoid Comparisons: Refrain from comparing one’s blog progress to others, as each blogger’s journey is unique.
  • It’s Okay to Take Time Off: Recognize that it’s acceptable to take breaks when needed to prioritize well-being and avoid burnout.
  • Make Peace with Pivoting Plans: Be flexible with goals and plans, acknowledging that unexpected changes may lead to new and positive outcomes.


Click for full script.

EBT486 – Janessa Heck

Intro 00:00

Food bloggers, hi, how are you today? Thank you so much for tuning in to the Eat Blog Talk podcast. This is the place for food bloggers to get information and inspiration to accelerate your blog’s growth and ultimately help you achieve your freedom, whether that’s financial, personal, or professional. I’m Megan Porta. I have been a food blogger for 13 years, so I understand how isolating food blogging can be. I’m on a mission to motivate, inspire, and most importantly, let each and every food blogger, including you, know that you are heard and supported.

Megan Porta 00:37

Have you ever experienced a stretch of time where you’ve just felt sick, or maybe you’ve had an illness that has affected your appetite? I know so many people who have gone through this, whether it’s like a couple of months or a couple of years. Appetites can be affected, and digestive issues can come up seemingly out of nowhere and affect the way you think of food, and sometimes even make you not want to eat food for a period. Janessa Heck from The Nessy Kitchen joins me inside of this amazing interview. And she talks about this very thing. She went through a digestive illness recently that affected her for nearly a year. She experienced prolonged periods of reduced appetite, and she tried different diets, all that were not aligned with her blogging niche. So this presented kind of a struggle. She gives really valuable insights into this topic if you are experiencing something similar. She talks through 10 tips that can help you get through something like this, even if it’s just a quick illness like the flu that affects your appetite for two weeks. She has some great stuff to share. Enjoy the episode. It is number 486 sponsored by RankIQ.

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Megan Porta 03:25

As an avid cook, baker, and food blog reader, Janessa long dreamed of starting her own food blog and finally took the plunge in December of 2022. Janessa focuses on easy, healthier recipes made mostly with whole food ingredients, as well as oat flour baking. After a year of plugging away at it as a hobby, she decided she wanted to treat it as a business and started to learn about SEO in January of 2022. The Nessy Kitchen grew from less than 1000 visitors in February 2022 to over 100,000 monthly visitors 18 months later. Janessa lives in Alberta, Canada, and in her free time, you can find her enjoying yoga, reading, or in the Rocky Mountains skiing in the winter and paddleboarding or hiking in the summer. Hello, Janessa. How are you today?

Janessa Heck 04:13

I’m good. Hi, Megan. How are you?

Megan Porta 04:15

I’m doing good too. Super excited to chat with you today about managing health issues. I know it’s something that, you know, it can pop up for any of us at any time. So how to do that well, food blogging. It can be especially hard, especially being a food blogger. But before we get into all of that, we would love to know if you have a fun fact to share about yourself.

Janessa Heck 04:37

I do. So my fun fact is that I have a 2738-day streak on Duolingo.

Megan Porta 04:44

Wow, that’s a lot. That’s a long streak.

Janessa Heck 04:47

Yeah, so it’s about seven and a half years, yeah.

Megan Porta 04:50

Oh my gosh. Okay, so what language? Spanish?

Janessa Heck 04:58

I’ve done other things. Use in conjunction to try to learn Spanish. So I decided about 10 years ago that I wanted to learn Spanish. I’m still wouldn’t consider myself fluent. But I’ve taken like a lot of in-person classes as well. And I did a homestay in Costa Rica for a few weeks with a family to try to learn it. So between all of that, I think I can like survive.

Megan Porta 05:18

For sure. Yeah. That’s so cool. Don’t break your streak. That is so impressive. I know.

Janessa Heck 05:23

It’s like at a point. Like I can’t ever like I have to keep it. It would be keep it forever.

Megan Porta 05:30

It’d be devastating, right, at this point that oh, gosh, yeah, I’m on pins and needles for you.

Janessa Heck 05:36

Yeah, I have like notification set on my phone every day. So I don’t forget it.

Megan Porta 05:40

And what about days that you’re sick? Or like, I don’t know, I just have days where I’m like, everything is off my radar. I’d be so afraid that I would just let it space.

Janessa Heck 05:49

Yeah, I try to do it like first thing in the morning. So then I have the whole day, if I’ve forgotten to come back around to it. And it doesn’t like you can do really short activities, like maybe three or four minutes just to keep your streak. So that’s what I’ll do those days is like review less than that I’ve done before something.

Megan Porta 06:09

Yeah. Okay. I’m, like worried for you. But you’ve got this. Awesome, so impressive. Okay, we’re gonna talk about navigating food blogging through some health issues, if those pop up in your life. But would you mind talking a little bit about your blog? Just give us kind of a quick rundown about your blog, and how you got to the point where, you know, health issues were kind of a concern for you.

Janessa Heck 06:33

So my blog is The Nessy Kitchen. And I started it in December of 2020. I focus mostly on like easier, healthier recipes and oat flour baking. And the first year, I totally saw it as a hobby. I didn’t want anyone to know about it. I didn’t know anything about SEO. And then in January of 2022, I decided that I did want to treat it as a business and learn a bit more. So I grew it from February of 2022, to from 1000 visitors. And then 18 months later, in August, I had 100,000 visitors. So but during that time, at the end of March of 2022, I was suddenly very sick with a digestive illness. And it affected me for close to a year where I had a lot of prolonged periods of reduced appetite. And then I was working with a few different health care practitioners. And so during that course of the year, they were like, well, let’s try, you know, gluten-free, let’s try. And so I had all of these different diets to try. But my blog was not like specific to any diet. So then I was like, well, I don’t want to just all of a sudden be like, I’m a paleo blogger when I’m just trying this for six weeks. So it was kind of a challenge to find being consistent with the, like recipes that I was trying to give my audience. But when you’re not always in the mood to eat them, or you can’t eat them, at that point in time, it definitely created some challenges. Yeah. Fortunately, I’m doing a lot better now. And I’m kind of back to eating everything that’s on my blog. But yeah, during that time of growth, I had a few little like, identity crises with the blog. I’m like, Oh, can I, is it fair for me to put, you know, this sandwich recipe out that I usually would eat but now I’m not eating bread? And is that like why? So yeah, it was a challenge. 

Megan Porta 08:24

But I can imagine, especially for that long an extended period of time. And your niche is not a diet-themed blog. So what is your niche?

Janessa Heck 08:24

I just call it kind of like healthier recipes. Like I tried to just work on like making you know from scratch, like whole food ingredients and like easy recipes, but…

Megan Porta 08:44

So all across the board. So you do like yeah, see, like muffins, pizzas, cookies, skillets. That’s all kinds of recipes, but definitely not diet-focused. So did you include any diet-focused recipes during that time?

Janessa Heck 08:59

So one thing for probably the longest period, the practitioner that I was working with had me like gluten-free, but I was allowed to eat oats. So then I started playing around with like oat flour baking. And now even though I can eat gluten again, that’s kind of my go-to for baking just because it’s been kind of a fun challenge. And I’m, I personally feel like the recipes I’ve developed tastes as good. So I’m like, oh, I don’t really miss the other ones. And it’s kind of fun to create these recipes for other people who maybe can’t eat wheat or just want like a whole grain baking recipe. So yeah, that was something I incorporated after being sick that I probably wouldn’t have been exploring if I hadn’t been.

Megan Porta 09:37

So that’s kind of cool. So some unexpected surprises popped up in ways that you present your recipes. And then just to like pay attention to the fact that this can happen at any time. I know so many people who just all of a sudden my husband included get some sort of digestive situation that seems to come out of nowhere right and there is literally nothing you can do about it besides like, you know, change your diet and just live through it, like keep taking one step after another to get through it. You can’t speed up time you can’t like, you know, like, get on the fast track and, and suddenly cure things you just have to like live through it right?

Janessa Heck 10:18

Yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s kind of. And yeah, even just, I also think that this topic could help like, you know, if you’re, some people get really bad morning sickness throughout pregnancy, and might have eight or nine months of not having an appetite or something. Yeah. So I think this could also be helpful in those kinds of situations where it’s maybe more short term. Just where yeah, sometimes you don’t have an appetite for all sorts of different reasons.

Megan Porta 10:44

Or even like if you get COVID, or if you get a really bad case of the flu. I remember having the flu a few years ago, that was brutal. And I didn’t have an appetite for like two to three weeks. And I the thought of blogging was like, Oh, my gosh, I don’t even want to look at my photos. I couldn’t even edit my photos. It was so disgusting. So it could just be something simple like that, too. Totally. Yeah. Okay, so you have some tips for people who are going through this no matter what the reason is, why, why they’re dealing with nausea or appetite issues. What are your tips for those people?

Janessa Heck 11:18

So my first tip is, and I think while you can eat your food and enjoy it, it’s a good idea to gather like trusted taste testers. And so if you have, you know, your family and friends that you consistently get to taste test your recipes, then if you have a time, when your appetites off, or whatever, you can still have, you know, this group of people testing it. And by that point, you would trust the feedback that they’re getting. So I definitely did that for a few recipes, where I like, couldn’t, couldn’t handle tasting it myself, but I would make it like for my parents over and my partner and my sister, and have them all taste it. And if they all agreed it was good, then I was like, okay, I’m confident in publishing this recipe.

Megan Porta 12:02

So you have to have someone that knows you fairly well and knows your, you know, like, aligns with your tastes a little bit.

Janessa Heck 12:09

Totally. And I think part of the trust, too, is all of those people have told me in the past when they didn’t like a recipe. So I think that’s important, too, is having people that will be honest, either way.

Megan Porta 12:21

Yeah. So honest taste testers who know you know what your tastes are, and know what your tastes are not, too.

Janessa Heck 12:29

Yeah, yeah, exactly.

Megan Porta 12:31

So do you gather these… Because I imagine like when you get sick, it’s, you know, you, you don’t want to scramble to find taste testers. Is this something that you did before your illness.

Janessa Heck 12:42

Or, I would like I cook for my friends and family a lot. So I’ve always kind of asked for a bit of feedback. But I think even if you’ve never really had people giving you feedback before, if you have just people in your life that you trust, I would get a few people to test your recipes before or taste them if you don’t, if you’re not in a place to taste them. And if you’re consistently getting good feedback from people that you trust, would be honest with you.

Megan Porta 13:09

It doesn’t hurt, right, to just be, just to be safe together those taste testers. Okay, that’s a great one. And then what is your next tip.

Janessa Heck 13:18

So my next tip is to still try to stay consistent. But you can change your frequency. So if you’re ill, and you just can’t pump out your, you know, if you’ve been doing two recipes a week or something, and you’re just at a point where you can’t do that, you could go down to maybe two recipes a month. But so then you’re still consistently posting, you know, people can expect that there’s two recipes a month, rather than just completely dropping off, though, if you have to do that. Sometimes you do too. But I think you can change your frequency and still stay consistent. And then people probably won’t even notice that you’re not showing up as often. As long as you’re still showing up.

Megan Porta 13:55

Yeah. And what about like, oh, maybe you’re gonna get to this, but even being consistent with non-food related posts, like maybe a more informational post or an article?

Janessa Heck 14:07

Totally. Yeah, I definitely do. Did have that as one of my topics, too. Oh, shoot, I still one of your topics? No. Okay. We can make that next. The next one. That’s a good transition into it. So the next one, yeah, was that you could write and publish non-recipe content. So maybe looking at the recipes that you have on your blog. And if you have a few potato soup recipes, like what are all the ways you can support that? So you’re still posting your once a week or whatever, but maybe it’s a what to serve with potato soup, and then how to reheat it the next week. And so then there’s still something new coming out for people, but you don’t have to taste anything.

Megan Porta 14:44

Yeah, that’s a great one. There’s so much content that you can write that’s not directly recipe-related. But you do still have to think about food like as you said, potato soup. It was like, well, if I’m feeling nauseous, the thought of potato soup is still gonna make me like, Oh, gross, but it’s better than having to make the recipe and taste it and all of that. 

Janessa Heck 15:05

Yeah, yeah, exactly. 

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Janessa Heck 16:38

And then another one that you could do is you can update old recipes, too. So maybe looking at the recipes that have potential, but you know, just need to change like the wording and stuff. Because then you already have the photos you already have it taste-tested. But you don’t have to actually think too much about the food either. Like at that point. If you’re just updating it, I feel like that’s partly just semantics. Yeah. So I found it was like easier to disconnect from those posts. Absolutely.

Megan Porta 17:06

Yeah, I love updating old content. There’s so much juice there. But then yeah, again, you don’t have to do all the photography usually over unless they’re really bad or the testing or the eating or anything like that. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And even with that one, like even if you do have to redo the photography, like if you have people that will eat the food, like so I would redo it, and then my partner, that’s what he got to have for supper because I’d be like I can’t or like I don’t want to eat this. But I could stomach like taking the photos sometimes. So that is always an option, too. 

Megan Porta 17:40

Yeah, that’s a good point. If you’ve already tested it, you know, it’s a great recipe, you don’t need to eat it again, you can make it at any time and just give it to anyone, right, and give it to a neighbor or anyone else who’s hungry. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, that’s a great point. Okay, what’s your next one?

Janessa Heck 17:55

And then my next one would be publishing recipes that you have already tested. So I did this with a few recipes that it was like I had tested them. I didn’t really, when I’d done keyword research on them, I was like, I don’t know, there maybe isn’t a lot of potential here. So then I didn’t pursue them at the time. But then I was like, Well, I’m kind of at a point where it’s like this recipe or nothing. I’ll publish this one that I’ve already tested. And a couple of them. I mean, I wasn’t expecting them to have search volume, and they don’t have a lot, but a couple of them did actually do a lot better than I expected. So sometimes you get surprises that way too. And I think when you don’t really have any other recipes that you could make or that you have any interest in testing at that time that it doesn’t hurt to sometimes put out a recipe that maybe won’t rank.

Megan Porta 18:41

I mean, you never know. Because we all do those, publish those posts that we think will not rank because we don’t stand a chance, but then they end up ranking. So you just never know this might be a great opportunity to set something free that will actually do really well, right? Okay, what is your next one?

Janessa Heck 19:00

So my next tip would be considering changing some of or like diving into recipes that suit your current diet. So for my example, like I did start experimenting with oat flour because it was something that I could have at the time. And then I’ve actually done pretty well with some of the old flour recipes. And so and especially if it is a dietary change that you think you’ll be making long term, then you’re kind of becoming an expert on that topic. You know, if you are now switching to eating paleo and you’re planning on being paleo long term, like it might be something that people would look to you for recipes for. So I don’t think that would be the first step to like change your blog’s niche all of a sudden, but I don’t think it’s out of the question to consider if it’s gonna be a long term change for you.

Megan Porta 19:51

And that doesn’t mean that you need to put the diet name in the title or anything, right? I mean, you could like you just use power and that was the only change. You didn’t say like, oh, this aligns with this diet, but just making the ingredient changes can just be communicated in your post rant.

Janessa Heck 20:10

Totally. Yeah, cuz I think I mean, there’s some people who, yeah, maybe follow a gluten-free diet that when they do want a particular recipe, they are specifying the type of flour that they want for it. And yeah, and I think that could be with different diets, too, that sometimes people are maybe looking for, like, certain sauce made with cashew milk rather than googling vegan or something, so…

Megan Porta 20:31

Exactly. Yeah, just being more ingredients specific rather than diet specific. Because I do think that scares people away. Like, I don’t want to put the name of the diet in my title. Well, I don’t think you have to just, you know, focus on the ingredients, or modifiers. Actually, yeah, that is a great one. Okay, what is the next one?

Janessa Heck 20:50

So my next one is consider outsourcing. So if you can, obviously, it kind of depends on your income with the blog, or if you’re having any. So at the time, I hadn’t qualified for MediaVine yet. So I didn’t outsource at this point. But I think if I had been making any income whatsoever, I probably would have outsourced things like photography because then I wouldn’t have had to kind of think about it or like, I know, like you said that about when you had the flu, that editing photos. Yeah, I had definitely had that some days. I’d be like, Oh, I’m gonna edit like these five recipes. And then I was like, nope, not happening. Yeah. Just like, like, no matter what edits I put on this, it doesn’t look good at all to me. So good. So yeah, I think if you have the ability to outsource anytime that you’re yeah, not feeling well, that can be really helpful.

Megan Porta 21:38

And temporary outsourcing is fine. You don’t have to go into it with a permanent mindset, like, oh, this has told us for six months or a year, it can be a month, right?

Janessa Heck 21:47

Yeah, exactly. Like so many people work, you know, under contract, like you’re probably not hiring someone as a photographer to just be your photographer for the year so you could try it for even just a couple of recipes that you’re having trouble? Yeah, facing right.

Megan Porta 22:01

Yep. Love that one. Yeah. What is your next point?

Janessa Heck 22:04

So then my last three points are kind of about your own, like self-care and mindset. So anytime you’re not feeling well, I think the first thing is, it’s important not to compare yourself to others. So especially when you’re comparing your blog’s progress to others, you don’t really know. Like, they might be, you know, working full time on their blog and feeling great and love everything they are tasting. It’s not a fair thing to compare your progress at all. So I think it’s really important to keep your blinders on, on just like moving your blog forward, no matter how slowly that is, and not looking at how fast other blogs are progressing.

Megan Porta 22:42

You never know what’s going on behind the scenes, right? Ever, you just know, you just don’t. So that also goes along with like, just not judging and being open-minded. I love that your last three points are focusing on this. So what is your next point?

Janessa Heck 22:59

Then my next one is that it is okay to take time off. So at the end of the day, like, I feel like the reason most people blog at least has a little bit for like, this vision of like having freedom and like the lifestyle that you want. And so I don’t think there’s any point in doing anything if it is making you feel worse. And so if you’re not enjoying the blogging, and it’s and you’re not healing at the rate that you’re wanting that sometimes you just need to take that time away. And sometimes, like I was actually like your blog, the beautiful thing about blogging is it isn’t something that is directly correlated to the hours like it’s not, you know, you do one hour of work, you make this money. So it is something that sometimes you can step back from and it’s still going to progress.

Megan Porta 23:46

Yeah, it’s so true. There are times when bloggers step back for whatever reason, whether it’s health-related or something else. And they expect things to go down, like their traffic and everything to go down, and they come back and find that things are actually doing better. So that’s like you said, that’s the beautiful thing about blogging that you can step away, and take breaks and come back and kind of pick up where you left off. And last but not least?

Janessa Heck 24:12

Yeah, my last point is just make peace with pivoting your plans and goals so when you know, you might have started the year off and been like I’m gonna produce X number of posts and I’m gonna grow to this number of traffic, but things always happen after you make your plans, and so you have to be flexible with being willing to adapt and still see that that’s progress, even though you didn’t hit necessarily the plan and goal that you set out at the beginning. It’s okay to change them.

Megan Porta 24:48

That was well said. Yeah, even though it’s not what you pictured in the beginning, it’s still progress. And I think that is why we all do this because we have that flexibility. We don’t have to clock in at nine and clock out at five. It’s like, it’s okay. And our journey is our journey. And we’re always making progress. So yeah, exactly. Yeah. Okay, these are so great. I think these are just good reminders for all of us to whether we’re dealing with an appetite change or not, like even if we’re just kind of burnt out, these are really good tips for all of us to hear. I have to ask you, what’s your favorite? Or what do you think is the most important tip of all the ones you listed?

Janessa Heck 25:31

I think for me, it was probably like taking breaks and giving myself permission to take time off.

Megan Porta 25:38

Yes, permission, you all have permission to take breaks, whether you’re struggling with this or not. So Janessa and I are here to tell you that, right? Anything that we’ve forgotten before we start saying goodbye, Janessa?

Janessa Heck 25:51

No, I think that was yeah, all of my points.

Megan Porta 25:54

All your amazing stuff. Awesome. Well, thank you. This was so valuable. I think this was gonna help many food bloggers just get through whatever they’re going through. So yeah, we really appreciate you today and all your time and value.

Janessa Heck 26:07

Thank you for having me.

Megan Porta 26:08

Yes. Do you have a favorite quote or words of inspiration to leave us with?

Janessa Heck 26:11

I do, it’s quite long. But when I’ve been thinking about it over the past few weeks, I was like, this is just it’s my, it’s like a little proverb story that I always think of. So it’s a Chinese proverb. And it’s the story of Sidok, and it has a few different translations. But I’ll read one of the ones that I came across when I was trying to get the exact words. So it was Sidok lived on the border, and he raised horses for a living. One day he lost one of his prized horses. After hearing of the misfortune, his neighbor felt sorry for him and came to comfort him, but he simply asked, “How can we know if this is a good thing or a bad thing?” After a while, the lost horse returned, and another beautiful horse came with it. The neighbor came over and congratulated him on his good fortune. But he simply said, “How could we know if this is a good thing or a bad thing?” One day, his son went out for a ride with the new horse, was violently thrown from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbors once again expressed their condolences to him, but he simply said, “How could we know if this is a good thing or a bad thing?” One year later, the Emperor’s army arrived at the village to recruit all able-bodied men to fight. His son was spared because of his injury and, therefore, spared from certain death.

Megan Porta 27:30

Oh, I love that. That’s so good.

Janessa Heck 27:33

So I think of it in all sorts of life situations. I’m like, it’s so easy to jump to being like, “Oh, I clearly think this is good or bad.” And I think with blogging, too, there’s all sorts of changes that you can think are good or bad, but you don’t really know until you see the story through.

Megan Porta 27:47

Just as a little example, your oat flour, like, you know, you there’s no way you would have probably done that or focused on it prior and then yeah, then it’s those have done really well for you, right, and I’ve had the same things on my blog, like I did the whole 30 diet for a little bit just to try to cleanse and because of that I posted or I published a few ingredient-specific recipes like you did, like with the flour, and those took off. And I never would have done that. That never would have happened before. So yeah, like you just can’t judge. You can’t judge little details and label them as bad and that story was amazing. Thank you for sharing that.

Janessa Heck 28:27

Yeah, yeah, I love it. I think of it constantly.

Megan Porta 28:31

Oh, yes, absolutely. Well, we’ll put together show notes for you. Janessa, if you want to go look at those you can go to with an N tell everyone where they can find you.

Janessa Heck 28:44

So you can find me at And then I’m not super active on most social media, but I am on Instagram, so feel free to reach out there as well.

Megan Porta 28:57

Yes, everyone go check her out. Thank you so much for being here. And thank you for listening, food bloggers. I will see you in the next episode. 

Outro 28:57

Thank you so much for listening to this episode of Eat Blog Talk. If you enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you posted it to your social media feed and stories. I will see you next time.

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